February 2013 \ Views \ 11
industry body for the sugar industry. In his role as former chairman and CEO of Bonsucro, Willers was instrumental in establishing the first metric standard for measuring the environmental impacts of an ethanol operation back in 2008. This is known as the Bonsucro Production Standard. Three years later, the nonprofit trade organisation gained international recognition when the EU began including the Bonsucro Standard into its own standards for ethanol imports in 2011. Bonsucro’s environmental impact standards address global warming and the measurement of CO2 emmissions, biodiversity and the expansion of land use, and indirect land change. In terms of biodiversity, the emphasis on land use implements standard requirements for new land expansion in line with EU requirements for imports of biofuels. Indirect land change policies aim to ensure that food production is not displaced. “If you push onto land that was grazed by cattle and you plant sugarcane, what happens to the cattle? Do they get pushed onto other previously unexploited land?” Willers asks, thereby highlighting the complex questions raised by the production of biofuels. Any country that wishes to export ethanol to the EU “must demonstrate that ethanol is being produced in a way that does not damage habitats or spoil virgin land – or that is not contributing to a displacement of food production.” Bonsucro has worked primarily with ethanol operations in South America. However, Willers believes that using metric standards like the one established by Bonsucro, “is the way forward for environmental management on a continent like Africa.” “I think the private sector has to take responsibility, so that when investments are made, they are made through the prism of an environmental standard,” says Willers. “That way, right from the start, you can make sure that the plants being opened will meet very tough and rigid environmental standards.” Similar to marketing efforts like Fairtrade labelling on products such as coffee and teas, which demonstrate that means of production have an impact on consumer behavior, Willers believes that the Bonsucro Standard will be attractive to potential ethanol producers in Africa looking to gain access to the European Market. These environmental impact standards are expected to “encourage African governments to tighten up their own
Image by Asadbabil
Image by Mariordo
environmental legislation. I think you’re going to have a very creative partnership between market-led environmental initiatives and government authorities, who can make that happen through laws and legislation.” On a broader scale, Mr Willers says that the African Union also has an interest in pushing African governments across the continent to enact stricter environmental regulations for ethanol production. “The AU is interested in the harmonisation of trade in Africa,” Willers believes.
By encouraging African governments to establish uniform environmental standards for the sugarcane sector, Africa is expected to become more attractive for investment from the EU and other Western markets. The production of biofuels may be controversial, but the key challenge is making better use of the land and ensuring that any ethanol production in Africa does not displace food production, and that it is done in a sustainable way.
Published on Feb 15, 2013
Published on Feb 15, 2013
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